Crofters: Making history in Pairc

Ecovillage Network UK evnuk at
Tue Dec 21 23:44:03 GMT 2004

1. West Highland Free Press - Making history in Pairc
2. Glasgow Herald - Landlord: Why I will keep my estate
3. Telegraph - Hostile land-grab sparked by 'hope to make millions'
4. EDM in Scottish Parliament

Making history in Pairc
Friday 3 December 2004
West Highland Free Press

Scotland’s  historic land reform movement is about to enter a crucial new 
phase, following confirmation that the country’s first- ever hostile 
community buy-out looks set to go ahead.
Residents in the Pairc area of Lewis this week overwhelmingly voted to try 
to wrest control of the local estate from current owner Barry Lomas, a 
Leamington Spa-based accountant who has so far steadfastly refused to sell. 
The 25,000-acre estate has been in the hands of his family since the 1920s.
The failure to reach an agreement means that the small community of around 
300 residents look destined to create history by becoming the first to 
invoke the Crofting Right to Buy powers contained in the Land Reform Act. 
The law enables communities to purchase local estates against the wishes of 
the landlord, if demand exists.
The result of Monday’s vote at Gravir School — which was greeted by loud 
cheers — showed that out of an eligible voter turnout of nearly 70 per 
cent, 222 people backed the proposal with only 32 against. There was also a 
requirement for a clear majority of crofters to be in favour, and out of a 
turnout of 77.9 per cent 99 gave their approval and only 17 did not.
It is now expected that a case will be submitted to Scottish Executive 
ministers, who are required to ratify the Pairc buy-out proposal. If they 
do so the purchase price will then be set by an independent valuer, with 
the community having to give final approval to go ahead.
Pairc Trust vice-chairman Donald MacKay said: “We are delighted with the 
response. For the Pairc area, this is a momentous decision and allows us to 
progress down a road of which the community are so clearly in favour.”
The proposed buy-out of the estate is given an added dimension through the 
plans by Scottish and Southern Energy to erect 125 turbines within its 
boundaries. It is understood that the proposed wind farm development will 
only slightly increase the value of the estate, although if planning 
permission is granted that figure would rise considerably.
Mr MacKay said Scottish and Southern had to date “played their cards very 
close to their chest”, but added that he was concerned over the extent of 
the negotiations between Mr Lomas and the company. An agreement struck 
between the two parties, which would result in the renewable energy 
entitlements of the estate being retained by Mr Lomas in the event of a 
community buy-out, is being examined to determine its competency in law.
Western Isles MSP Alasdair Morrison said: “There can be no doubt about what 
the people of Pairc want to happen. The writing of the next chapter in the 
history of the Pairc district is now well and truly in the hands of the people.
“When we passed the Land Reform Act in the Scottish Parliament, I said that 
the landowners’ day was over. The people of Pairc are hastening a new day 
and I can assure them of every support.
“I congratulate the members of the committee who have successfully steered 
and managed this complex matter. They enjoy the support of the majority of 
the community. Although they did attract some incoherent and illogical 
criticism, the committee members have battled on to secure this resounding 
Sandra Holmes from Highlands and Islands Enterprise’s Community Land Unit — 
who from the outset have played a key advisory role — felt this week’s 
events were “highly significant”. She added: “It enables the community to 
proceed with an application to the executive and I expect that to happen 
fairly quickly, although we do not have a firm timetable.”
Scottish Crofting Foundation chief executive Patrick Krause said it was no 
surprise that an area where crofting played such an important role was 
going to be the first to use the right-to-buy powers. “Democracy has spoken 
and the community of Pairc must be wished every success in pursuing their 
aims,” he added.


Landlord: Why I will keep my estate
DAVID ROSS, Highland Correspondent
December 16 2004

THE landlord at the centre of Scotland's first hostile land buyout 
yesterday made clear that he has no plans to sell up.
Barry Lomas, the accountant from Leamington Spa whose family company owns 
Pairc Estate in Lewis, was speaking for the first time since crofters and 
other residents voted overwhelmingly in favour of a bid for the 25,000-acre 
Under new land reform legislation, a crofting community has a right to buy 
its land, whether or not the landowner wants to sell, although the final 
decision rests with ministers, who could appoint an independent valuer to 
set a fair price.
In a statement, Mr Lomas stressed that he has no plans to sell the land; 
emphasised his family's 80-year commitment to the people and the estate; 
but said he would not be deaf to "reasonable" offers – thought to mean a 
price reflecting any future windfarm development which could earn about 
£400,000 a year, while the value of the land itself could be little more 
than half that.
Pairc Crofters is a private company in which Mr Lomas has a controlling 
interest and was the vehicle for his issuing the statement yesterday. He 
suggested that the proposal by Scottish and Southern Electricity to develop 
a 125-turbine windfarm was behind the enthusiasm for a buyout.
"Pairc Crofters, as owner of the Pairc Estate on the isle of Lewis, has 
been in talks with both Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) and the Pairc 
community for several years.
"The current situation is that a lease has been signed with SSE enabling 
them to proceed with surveys with a view to developing a substantial 
windfarm and the community have held a ballot to enable the Pairc Trust to 
apply to Scottish ministers for consent to buy assets belonging to Pairc 
"Three years ago, the first talks were held with SSE about a windfarm on 
the estate. In January 2003, a full public meeting was held, following 
which an election was held of the liaison group to represent the crofters' 
and community's interests."
Mr Lomas added: "Pairc Crofters has no plans to sell the estate, although 
it would always be possible to entertain reasonable offers."
When contacted later, Mr Lomas refused to expand on any part of his statement.
Donald MacKay, the former convener of Western Isles Council, a resident of 
Pairc and a member of the trust, said that the windfarm was not the driving 
"Our main purpose is to pursue the buy-out of the land," he said.


Hostile land-grab sparked by 'hope to make millions'
By Tom Peterkin, Scottish Political Correspondent
(Filed: 16/12/2004)

The island landlord set to be the victim of Britain's first hostile 
land-grab claimed yesterday that some locals became interested in ousting 
him only when they realised his plans for a wind farm would net them millions.

Barry Lomas, owner of the Pairc Estate on the Isle of Lewis, said his 
estate was left to work on the wind farm while some Hebridean crofters 
focused on taking it over.

Mr Lomas suggested that Southern Energy proposals for a 125- turbine plant 
capable of generating 250 megawatts and £1 million a year was behind the 
crofters' desire to take advantage of controversial land reform legislation.

For the first time since islanders voted overwhelmingly to go ahead with 
the buyout, Mr Lomas tried to dispel his image as an absentee English 
landlord by underlining his family's commitment to the area.

Mr Lomas, a Leamington Spa-based accountant, rejected local criticisms that 
he had failed to communicate with the community when negotiating the wind 
farm deal with Southern Energy.

He said it was through his discussions with the community that the 
organisation formed to represent locals was alerted to the riches to be 
gained by using new laws allowing crofters to purchase land compulsorily 
and sporting rights even when they are not for sale.

"With the scale and the rewards of the wind farm development now apparent, 
the Liaison Group [the local organisation] for the first time asked to buy 
the estate."

An absolute right to buy for crofting communities even when the land is not 
on the market was the most contentious part of the Land Reform (Scotland) 
Act 2003 passed by the Scottish Parliament.

Its Labour Party supporters claimed it corrected the injustices of the 
Highland Clearances.

Mr Lomas criticised the Pairc Trust, the successor of the Liaison Group, 
saying it had excluded the estate.

"This has led to meetings on community ownership rather than development of 
the wind farm. So although the Pairc Trust has given its support to a wind 
farm, it has not engaged in the detail of the lease or the rights of the 
crofters leaving the estate to resolve these matters," he said.

Assuming Scottish ministers approve the Pairc Trust's bid for ownership, 
the community will be the main beneficiary from the wind farm.

Donnie MacDonald, the Pairc Trust chairman, said the move was triggered by 
the estate trying "to force the community to accept a development on their 

Mr Lomas said a successful community bid would be the first change of owner 
since 1924 when Lord Leverhulme, the soap baron, encouraged islanders to 
buy land without success.

It was then the Lomas family bought the Pairc Estate. Mr Lomas said his 
family's connection with the area pre- dated the First World War. His 
great-grandfather rented land on Lewis and bought a house in nearby Harris 
in 1931.

His grandparents moved permanently to Harris in 1952 and are buried there 
with his brother John.


30 November 2004

Western Isles MP, Calum MacDonald (Labour) has today tabled a motion in 
Parliament congratulating the Pairc Community on the land buyout ballot 
result. The Early Day Motion tabled in the House of Commons reads:


That this House congratulates the crofting community of Pairc in the 
Western Isles for their historic vote to use their rights under the 
Scottish Land Reform Act to make a compulsory purchase of the 25,000 acre 
Pairc Estate; commends the Pairc Community Trust and the Scottish Community 
Land Unit for the responsible way they managed the consultation process and 
the ballot; applauds the Labour Government for having launched the Land 
Reform process in January 1999 through its Green Paper, and the Scottish 
Parliament for having passed the Land Reform Act in January 2003; and hopes 
that many other communities in the Highlands and Islands will take similar 
advantage of their new rights under the Act, so fulfilling the vision of 
sweeping land reform in the Scottish Highlands and Islands first 
articulated by radical politicians such as Keir Hardie and the ‘crofting 
MPs’, Dr Roderick MacDonald, Charles Fraser MacKintosh, Dr Gavin Clark, 
Alexander Sutherland and Donald MacFarlane more than 100 years ago.”

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